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Low season in Bucerias worth the trip, if you can stand the heat

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Saturday night at Buzzos in Bucerias.

Where to eat and drink in Bucerias

Bucerias, Mexico—The roosters are crowing, the thumpa-thumpa (from a zumba class across the street) is blaring, and Mexican voices are shouting from loudspeakers mounted on cars.

These were the sounds I woke up to each morning in Bucerias. A small, dusty town about an hour north of Puerto Vallarta, Bucerias was my choice for a two-week getaway to work on a novel and relax on the beach.

I might not ever have heard of the town if I hadn’t overheard someone mention it while at a resort in Nuevo Vallarta in December. On that trip, I came for a morning with my mom to do some shopping, liked what I saw (including a local alehouse serving Mexican craft beer, La Negra), and came back the next day for an afternoon and evening.

However, at the time, I only experienced the beach side, where the Canadians and other travellers stay. This time I stayed at an AirBnB hosted by a couple, Ramon and Debora, in the Mexican part of Bucerias, on the other side of the carraterra (basically, the highway that connects the town with Puerto Vallarta to the south and numerous other towns, including the surfers’ paradise Sayulita, to the north). I went at the end of May/beginning of June, the “low” season. I found out why; along with the humidity, temperatures hovered around 40 Celsius during the day. Night wasn’t much better. It was three-showers-a-day weather.

The temperature was more bearable at the beach. The Bay of Banderas, where P.V., Bucerias etc are located, is know for winds that make the area prime ocean real estate for kite surfers. Mornings were spent looking for a cool place to write; afternoons were spent at Sukha’s Beach House. There are a few “beach houses” along this stretch of sand, although it might be more accurate to call them restaurant/bars with their own tables and lounge chairs out front on a section of the beach. I only tried one other before returning to Sukha’s; the drinks were good (two-for-one margaritas, a “pina mescalada” made with roasted pineapple, a Mexican IPA from a brewery called Los Cuentos), the food exceptional, and the lounge chairs slightly beat-up but not falling apart.

My little lunch place.

It being the low season, there was always a place for me out front of Sukha’s. I would imagine the situation is a lot different between November-April.

Besides Sukha’s, other favourite spots was a small taqueria around the corner from my hosts’. I think Lucy and Diana thought that this gringo who came in around 1 or 2 p.m. to order one vegetarian burrito was pretty funny.

One night I tried to indulge my nationhood by going to a sports bar to watch a hockey game. I lasted one period due to lack of interest (neither team in the playoffs was Canadian) and a big dinner of Thai noodles. I ate at Chin-Gon Asian Flavors, which was on “the Canadian side” of the caraterra (as was the sports bar). The food was delicious and authentically Thai but seemed to exhaust me. Or maybe it was the sun and the beer, as well.

Culci’s is a fine-dining (again, relatively speaking) restaurant located on the Mexican side, just a few blocks from my hosts’. Ramon spotted it when we were driving around picking up supplies for a barbecue we were going to attend later that day. “He talks to everyone” is how Debora, who is originally from Italy but lived in New Zealand for years before moving to Mexico (they met in Guadalajara), describes Ramon. It’s true. Spotting a sign in the window advertising a lunch special of two-for-one burritos, Ramon stopped the Nissan to go inside and talk to the owner. Satisfied, Ramon called Debora, and we picked her up and brought her back to Culci’s. They brought us an appetizer of ceviche wrapped in thin cucumber slices. It was carrot-y and not overwhelmingly onion-y, which I liked. My marlin burrito was huge (I could only eat half), and came with a pewter mug of French fries topped with two onion rings and a sprig of basil. Definitely recommended.

The marlin burrito and Culci’s.

Panino’s is a bread-and-breakfast café. More important than the food and the Americanos was the air-conditioning. After a few days of trying to write in my room at Ramon and Debora’s, my fingertips damp on the keyboard, I gave up and made for Panino’s nearly every morning. I tried the huevos rancheros a couple of times. You’d think this dish would be a no-brainer. But the runny eggs and refried beans just turned into a mess on my plate. Have an omelet instead.

It being low season, the town, at least the beach side, was pretty dead at night. The Drunken Duck, an open-air bar with Mexican cover bands covering Western hits (it would be a black day when at least one AC/DC song didn’t get played), was my hang on a couple of weekend nights. The bands were amateurish but eager and played to a mix of gringos and Mexicans. The second night I was there the plumbing wasn’t working so we had to use the restrooms across the street at a place called Yoyo Mo’s. I did not like its vibe at all.

One evening, I think my first Friday, we stopped by a restaurant on the beach side (though a few blocks from the beach) called 329. Erik Ruiz, the owner, is a friend of Ramon’s and Debora’s. I didn’t sample the food but the space and drinks were fine. At any rate, Ruiz is in the process of moving 329 around the corner, to a larger and more open space, one with palm trees. (Trivia: It would cost 30,000 pesos to remove one of these big palms.)

One other place I should mention is Buzzos. I think there might be two in Bucerias but we went to the one that’s a little more off the beaten track, and which caters to Mexicans. There was a Mexican Banderas band and the place was packed with groups drinking whiskey and tequila and of course cervezas. This was one of the last places we visited (Debora and Ramon brought me) and also one of my favourites. The kitchen was closed by the time we were ready to order, and so we went to Linda’s Tacos. Linda’s has some interesting taco fillings, including pumpkin and a part of the corn plant that isn’t often used in cooking (or so I was told). Both were good and a nice change from the usual fillings of beef, pork and marlin. Though what I wouldn’t give for a place near my home where I could get a big fat marlin burrito for lunch.

Scene from Sukha’s. Thanks anonymous back beach lady.
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